Monday, 29 August 2016

Poetry in Notion - Does poetry help us in times of need?

Hi all! 

Poetry is the go-to in times of need for many of us, but does it help? If we look at social media, yes, yes, yes.

After the Orlando massacre, Maggie Smith's poem went viral. It's not about Orlando per se, but about life being brutish and short--

"No arts; no letters; no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear, and danger of violent death: and the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
Thomas Hobbes.

A woman lights a candle during a candlelight vigil for the victims of the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.

Good Bones

Related Poem Content Details

Life is short, though I keep this from my children.
Life is short, and I’ve shortened mine
in a thousand delicious, ill-advised ways,
a thousand deliciously ill-advised ways
I’ll keep from my children. The world is at least
fifty percent terrible, and that’s a conservative
estimate, though I keep this from my children.
For every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird.
For every loved child, a child broken, bagged,
sunk in a lake. Life is short and the world
is at least half terrible, and for every kind
stranger, there is one who would break you,
though I keep this from my children. I am trying
to sell them the world. Any decent realtor,
walking you through a real shithole, chirps on
about good bones: This place could be beautiful,
right? You could make this place beautiful.

 Events can seem too incomprehensible for ordinary language, so poetry can speak to us in precise language that fits the purpose.

It can be the language of defiance and protest, which is my favourite genre of poetry. I love poetry that packs a powerful message (who doesn't get Maya Angelou's Still I Rise?) -- 'you may trod me in the very dirt/But still, like dust, I rise,' as relevant today as when she penned it in 1978. Okay, most of us know and love that poem, but when Serena Williams went on *youtube to read Angelou's poem, it went viral.

In August last year, a Sydney activist for peace wrote an anti-racism poem then had to retreat due to the negative reaction. 

Second Earth
In another world
Just like this one,
Parallel to mine,
Is a life where I never met you.
And for that I am grateful.
Stella Smith (not her real name)

We have in our blogger-midst some amazing poets such as multi-published Nilanjana Bose who many discovered through the A to Z. I've known Nila since the world began, or close enough. She joined RomanticFridayWriters in 2010, now WEP. (She won the latest WEP challenge, GARDENS! with her amazing Point me to...) Her poems always blow my mind, so I asked her to share one with us which she wrote in the aftermath of the #ParisAttacks of 2015.

Image result

All the world’s a war zone

The flowers dry, the candles burn;
both reach their ends. The world still turns.
The streets are full, the café chat
is about revenge, tit for tat,
air-strikes, mortal wounds, ground combat.
I cannot take in any of that.
I only know she won’t return.

Although each time the doorbell rings
my heart leaps once, instantly sings
then is brought to the days before.
She’ll never be back at my door.
The talk is thick with migrants, war,
how exactly to settle the score.
But I can’t relate to those things.

I just know that flowers dry rough,
that candles aren’t warm enough.
I just know my room’s gone cold,
my heart is shrivelled and grown old;
she’ll never again cross this threshold
whatever events might unfold.
That’s my truth, the rest’s just stuff.

 The old classicist, William Wordsworth said: '...thoughts ... often lie too deep for tears.' A good poet can help put those thoughts into words...

As much as we hate poetry, we really love it, don't we? Even when we don't understand it completely. It can make a thing of beauty out of ordinary things (even tennis!)

Thanks for coming by. I don't get to read much about poetry around the blogs so I've been thinking on this topic and shared my thoughts, random as they are. I think in the digital age, poets can fire off powerful words to encapsulate the horror, the capriciousness of life, the landscape of a world in turmoil. 

  • What's your take on poetry? Love it? Hate it? Indifferent?


  1. Her poem was moving.

    Poetry is like song lyrics. And we know how well those stick in our brain.

    I have to disagree with the first one though. The world is not half bad. There is a lot of good, we just don't get to hear it.

    1. I would't know the exact ratio, L. Diane, but I guess the poet could be forgiven for thinking it's about half/half. I get what she's saying, even if she's used poetic license. When I watch CNN, I could agree the world's half bad. No question. We're just blessed to live in the good half. :-)

  2. Nila writes amazing poems.
    I think half the time I just don't understand poems...

    1. That's most of us non-poets, Alex, but some are worth digging deep!

  3. I used to love poetry, but usually modern poetry is beyond me and does not appeal although I enjoyed All The World's a War Zone. That is my kind of poetry. As a young woman I used to write a lot of poetry myself. I haven't done so for years. I guess I should go read Nila's blog. Didn't know Maggie Smith had written a poem either.

    1. A lot of poetry is beyond me, Jo. Some is worth sweating over for the poet's meaning. I love Nila's too. I hope you do read Nila's blog. Can't recommend her enough!

  4. Several amazing poems here. Thanks for sharing. I used to write poetry back in high school but the last one I wrote was a collection of couplets as a book blurb. Don't know if that was the wisest choice for my amazon sell description. I might have to move it.

    1. Tamara, you can always change it. Poetry always says it better, I think.

  5. Poetry is so powerful. It gets right into the center of you and makes you pay attention with your heart.

  6. I'm not much one for reading poetry, maybe because I could never write it without feeling self-conscious and artificial, but once in a while the lines reach out and grab me in a way simple prose rarely does.

    1. Many people are like you, Ian. I so admire poets and how they hit that right word! I could use some of that.

  7. Poems do carry a powerful punch. The words can be soothing and inspiring. Great poems here.

    Thoughts in Progress
    and MC Book Tours

  8. Honestly, I've never been into poetry. Probably because, like Botanist, I've never been any good at writing it. I have to say, my opinion has now changed after reading this post. I read your friend's poem about the Paris attacks and felt the tiny hairs on my arm grow fully erect. But as I listened to Serena's video account of "I Rise," that when the chills crawled up my spine and for the first time I truly felt touched by the powerful, evocative words of poetry. After reading you blog post today, I intend to give poetry another chance and this time I will actually pay more attention to the meaning and the words. I never realized how powerful and heartfelt poetry could be. Thanks for opening my eyes to this beautiful world or words, lyrics and art.

    1. Melissa, your comment really touched me, and I felt pricks! If only one person learns to value these miracle-writers, my work here is done! Thank you!

  9. Poetry for me, reaches those parts of the heart and brain that prose can't. :) Thank you so much, Denise, for featuring my poem here!

    1. Almost thou convinces me to study more poetry, Nila. Loved having you here!

  10. As one who has devoted his professional life to song, of course I love verse. That said, I don't always make time for it. Thanks for highlighting the works here.

    1. Many song lyrics reach that special place, too, AS.

  11. Hi Denise - you've opened a few eyes here through your post. Also poetry put to song - be they 'pop' or more traditional ... can bring it to life and the story line that's being implied ... as I now see AS is saying above: switched off me!! Cheers Hilary

    1. Thanks Hilary. It's great to become more aware of other genres and judging by the comments, some have been touched!

  12. I remember the first time poetry truly touched me. Margaret Atwood's book The Circle Game when I was a kid. So many thoughts and emotions. Much of it inexplicable, but not less powerful because of that. Got chills again and again reading the powerful words in your post!!

    1. Margaret Attwood is amazing! We don't always have to understand every word a poet says. I'm glad you enjoyed the post.

  13. I got goosebumps several times while reading this and watching/listening to the video. Great post! I love poetry. You can really get into the emotion and feel it.

  14. I used to read a lot of poems. You've reminded me, I don't read poetry nearly enough nowadays.

  15. Wow. Awesome post, Denise (and I see you've changed your profile picture. I love it.

    I also LOVE poetry, "real" poetry, as I think you know. I LOVE these poems. I met Nilanjana through WEP Gardens topic. This poem is incredible. She is incredible with form ... incredibly skilled with rhyme. The power of repetition, of imagery. It is SO excellent. As is Maggie Smith's. The images are vivid, but she then uses repetition so subtly - "though I keep this from my children" - to twist the heart. I'm left stunned.

    Poetry will do it ... express thoughts that are "too deep for tears."

    Great post!

    1. I knew you'd enjoy this post Ann! I adore the poems I shared.

  16. I love poetry. I try to do something on my blog for National Poetry Month in April every year. I even participate in the 30 poems in 30 days writing challenge. I also have poems delivered to my email by Poetry has always reflective and therapeutic. As well as soothing and entertaining. A poem can both hold mirrors to the world we live in, demanding change. Allows readers to take a peak into a reality different from what they live. Or provide laughter when you want to cry. I recently saw the new Apple commercial for the Olympics where Maya Angelou recites part of her poem "Human Family." The poem packs a powerful message in its simple reminder that we're not all different. Something, that's sad to say needs to be reinforced more of today. Here's the YouTube link to her full reading of the poem:

    1. Lidy, thanks for the link. I will check it out. I will come by and check out more about poetry.

  17. Hey Denise,

    Although, mostly, poetry makes me cringe. However, there is some powerful, poignant timely stuff within your thoughtful post.

    I can relate to simple poetry. A lot of poetry just puzzles the heck out of me. That's why, when I succumbed to overwhelming demand, I actually wrote some simple poetry on Damyanti's site, way back when.

    Of course, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar, is an accomplished pawet with pawetry that makes you pawnder.


    1. Gary, I'd love to pawnder some of Penny's poems!

    2. You actually read one of Penny's um, pawems. It was titled, "Extra Sensory Pawception." :)

      Have a lovely weekend, Denise.

      Penny's fictional human,


  18. I do enjoy reading poems Denise. And some thought provoking ones deliver very powerful messages.

  19. Hi Denise!

    Awesome pieces in your post :)

  20. I love poetry, and especially Nila's! I make an attempt every now and then but it's just that! I also believe the world is half and half, at least today. I pray for the day we can get it to 75/25. :)

  21. Beautiful! It takes the eyes of the poet, the world we see, the vision of what the world can be, to reach the hearts of people. It is that spiritual connection that makes a poet aware of the horrors and causes him or her to warn gently of what might be coming ahead. The question is as always, Is anybody listening?
    Excellent post Denise. I loved and tweeted it.
    Shalom aleichem,

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